The History of Drumming – A Proper Timeline

Nowadays, most of the popular songs that we listen to, whether or not we are aware of it, include drums. A band or an orchestra will not be complete without a drummer. It has also been said that ladies can easily fall for men who play the drums. Have you ever asked yourself why and how long the drum has been in existence? Well, we are about to find out.

History of Drums

Of all the conceivable musical instruments that man can get hold of today, it’s the drums that stayed with us the longest, dating as early as 6,000 B.C. Drums are found throughout the world, across every known culture, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Interestingly, they were always strongly associated with things that are either ceremonial, sacred, or symbolic.

In the olden times, drums were small and simple in construction – any piece of hide stretched over one end of a hollow log forms the drum while sticks or bones were used as the beater. Later on, it was found out that drums of differing sizes form different sounds, and that having a set of drums can create a wide range of tones and contrast.

Early Uses and Functions

Long ago, drums were used as the first form of telephone for one tribe to be able to communicate with another which can be miles away. They were usually used to signal meetings, dangers, and other ceremonial warnings. Drums called Timpani in Europe were highly symbolic as they were associated only with the royalties. As for its sacred use, throughout Central Asia, Siberia, and some Native American tribes in North America, shamans used drums as ritual instruments. Eventually, drums have evolved and were used as coded instruction calls for soldiers in times of battles and wars, as well as to create noise and frighten the enemy.

Development of Drums

Later on, drums were started to use in a more musical and artful sense such that it is used to form rhythm and dynamics.

  • 1865 – Civil War Era Band

During the civil war in the United States, the dominating popular music of the time was marching music. This required more than one drummer since there was a 1:1 ratio between the drums and drummers.

  • 1865 – Experimentations

After the U.S. Civil War, drummers have began experimenting on the the possibility that one player is all it needs to do the job of an entire percussion section.

  • 1876 – Double Drumming

Drummers started playing two drums a time which has become popular in theater orchestras and dance bands.

  • 1890 – The First Bass Drum Pedals

This was a big breakthrough in the history of drumming as the invention of bass drum pedals allowed a single person to simultaneously play all of the basic percussion instruments in a military band (snare drum, bass drum, and cymbals).

  • 1891 – The Influence of Immigrants

This year marked an record-breaking influx of immigrants in the United States, bringing with them their ethnic musical instruments which will later be adapted into the drum set such as the Chinese Tom, the Chinese cymbal, Temple Blocks, Woodblocks, and Cowbells.

  • 1909 – Patenting

Ludwig patented the current bass drum pedal design that we know of.

  • 1913 – Flyswatters to Brushes

Drummers started to used the retractable flyswatters as a quieter alternative for sticks, and renaming them into “brushes”.

  • 1917 – Emergence of Jazz Music
  • 1927 – Talkies

The first “talkies” or films with sound were released. Thousands of drummers were hired to provide the sound effects.

  • 1935 – Gene Krupa

Gene Krupa helped out the role of a drummer in the big band and helped evolve the drumset that we know today.

  • 1941 – Ludwig Wartime Kit

In lieu of the war, Ludwig unveiled an all-wood “wartime” drumset.

1942 – Emergence of Bebop

1948 – Emergence of Rhythm and Blues

1954 – Emergence of Rock’n’Roll

1963 – Drumsticks Change Forever

Vic Firth began creating his own brand of sticks and mallets which will became the standard sticks that we know of today, pioneering pitch pairing and weight sorting.

1964 – The Beatles

British bands became popular in the US, especially The Beatles. Everyone saw Ringo Starr playing with matched grip and it became the default grip for drummers.

Drums as We Know Them Now

Today, drums serve as the driving force behind music such as jazz, blues, R&B, rock, and of course, the modern pop music.

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